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Health food fraud targeted

By SHAN JUAN | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-17 01:51

Top watchdog launches campaign to regulate burgeoning industry

The top food watchdog has launched a five-month crackdown on health food products to better secure public health and regulate the rising industry.

The campaign by the China Food and Drug Administration will run from this month until the end of September and mainly target the illegal production, sales and advertising of health food products.

The use of illegal additives and components in health foods is at the top of the agenda, Yan Jiangying, a spokeswoman for the administration, said at a news conference on Thursday.

"Problems in the health food market remain an issue in the country, and the campaign aims to restore order to the industry through exposing and punishing illegal activities related to health food products," she said.

The campaign reportedly will be the first since the ministry-level administration was formed in March. By integrating the management and supervision functions of several government organs, including the former Ministry of Health, the administration is mainly responsible for food and drug safety on the mainland.

Unlike previous efforts, this campaign involves lots of raids and public exposure, Yan said.

"Those caught with illegal activities in the industry will be severely punished," she said.

By the end of last year, 2,006 health food producers operated on the Chinese mainland, with a total output worth more than 280 billion yuan ($45.5 billion), the administration said.

"The health food industry is growing fast, but some practitioners are pursuing financial interests at all costs, ignoring laws and regulations," she said.

Some advertise and label food as health food just to earn more money, she said.

In a case cracked by the administration and public security authorities, a fake health food product with a wholesale price of 53.5 yuan was sold mainly to elderly people for nearly 1,500 yuan.

The effects of some products were exaggerated, misleading customers, said Yu Kang, deputy director of the nutrition department under Peking Union Medical College Hospital.

Such products mainly target chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension, he said.

Some companies illegally added drug components or other banned additives to health food products to boost their efficacy, Yan added.

This often happens to products related to diabetes, weight reduction and male impotence, she said.

To consolidate future achievements of the campaign, "the administration will conduct research aiming to set up the institutions and mechanism to better supervise and regulate the health food industry," she said.

"Legislation will also be considered to regulate the industry."

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